Published: Saturday March 9, 2013 MYT 9:08:00 AM
Badminton: Baun closer to big farewell at All-England
BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom: Former world number one Tine Baun remained on course for a big farewell when she reached the semi-finals of the All-England Open in the last week of her unusual career.
Baun, a late starter at the top level but the only woman to deny China a singles title in the past decade, was often at her commanding, emotionally intense best during a 21-7, 21-13 against Lindaweni Fanetri, the world number 19 from Indonesia.
The weight of her smashing and the power of her presence in an arena where she has won two All-England titles made it difficult for a young opponent who only briefly got into the match, when she battled hard to reach a 10-8 second game lead.
But after that it was again one way traffic, accompanied by one-sided crowd support as the popular Dane increasingly put together a wider variety of attacking combinations to win the rallies.
"I was looking at her and I could see that she was not that confident and a little nervous," said Baun.
"And I played really well.
"I was willing to work hard for victory, and my strokes were working well and I was confident that I was going to win.
"I am very happy with the ending I am going to have here in this, my last tournament."
Baun is helped by the fact that the other semi-final place in her half will not be filled by Li Xuerui, the top-seeded Olympic and defending champion, who was beaten on the opening day.
She had also been helped by the first round defeat in her quarter of Wang Yihan, the world champion who has several times been her major rival here.
The exit of these two Chinese greats was followed by the defeat of another former All-England champion, Wang Shixian, which means that for only the third time in 16 years the sport's most powerful nation will not win the women's singles.
Wang was beaten in the other half of the draw by Saina Nehwal, who moved nearer to becoming the first Indian woman ever to win the All-England title after a long drawn-out battle.
Her 23-21, 19-21, 21-16 win over Wang was a long, fluctuating and tense affair, in which mistakes were mixed with well constructed rallies, with Nehwal chiselling out a match-winning lead after the interval in the third game.
Always bearing a heavy burden of expectation from the world's second most populous nation, Nehwal also has extra pressure of expectations from being the highest seed left in her event.
The second-seeded Commonwealth champion also remained wary, right to the last point, of her mobile opponent's capacity to recover, even from a big deficit.
"She has the kind of game which makes it possible to come back, and I've seen her do that before," Nehwal said.
"I tried to make sure I kept my focus right to the end and I think I did that.
"I have to handle the pressure of expectations from the Indian fans and hopefully I am doing that. I'm just happy to get through this."
It was only when Nehwal played the more consistent badminton in the third game, whilst still moving the shuttle around well, that she extended a small lead to 15-8 at its maximum.
Wang's problems in the final game began to grow with two line decisions which annoyed her, first to put her 7-8 down and then to go 7-11 down.
On the first of these she stared and then tilted her head back in frustration; on the second she dropped her racket and glared at the umpire.
She had 60 seconds mid-game interval and her coach's calming words to help her get over that, but by then Nehwal had built up some momentum and her capture of four of the next five points gave her a cushion which was never pulled from under her. - AFP